Bullet Points – RuPaul’s Drag Race 05:05

Oh Thank God! I have been waiting patiently for this episode for the entire season, and thank the drag gods it did not disappoint!

In every reality TV show like this, there is always a challenge that the fans wait for because it defines the core values of the show. On Project Runway, it’s the Unconventional Materials challenge, where the designers must make a fashion forward garment from non-traditional materials (i.e. hardware supplies, recycled materials, etc.). On Top Chef, it’s Restaurant Wars, where the chefs form two teams and open a pop-up restaurant.

And on RuPaul’s Drag Race, there are two challenges. While the reading challenge will come later this season, it’s time for Snatch Game!

For those who’ve never seen it, Snatch Game has been a part of the show since season 2. In it, the remaining nine queens basically have to bring their funniest celebrity impersonation in a riff on the old game showMatch Game, where contestants have to match their responses to the wild celebrity responses. Click here to see a classic Match Game clip to get a sense of what I’m talking about. Not only is celebrity impersonation one of the bedrocks of drag, but this challenge really shows who has talent and who doesn’t (think of Pandora Boxx’s iconic Carol Channing impersonation in Season 2, or Chad Michaels’s brilliant take on Cher in Season 4).

So, as the girls return to the workroom following last week’s double elimination, and after a confusing mini challenge (the queens had to play “Who Wore It Best” by turning a cuddler into fashion), they learn that the time has come for Snatch Game. As the girls prepare, there is the requisite amount of shade throwing over everyone’s choices (with one person in particular getting the brunt of it). Ru does his usual sweep of the room and reminds everyone to be funny and be specific.

In a brilliant move, the “contestants” on Snatch Game (and the guest judges for the runway) are Julie Brown and Downtown Julie Brown (which sent me to a happy 80s flashback and I was clapping my little hands in glee!) And while the Downtown was okay as a guest and a judge, Julie really brought her A game (with answers that were often funnier than the “stars” responses and some strong critiques on the runway).

The next day, the girls return to the work room and already we see the two main conflicts of the season. On one hand we have Alyssa (yawn!) and Coco (yawn!) and now Alyssa is taking on Jade. Frankly I find it a bore as Alyssa is just as likely to stir shit up as Jade and Coco are. The far more interesting conflict brewing is The Heathers… I’m sorry, RoLaskaTox versus Jinkx. While I can understand Jinkx’s mopey moments about no one getting her style of drag, she’s shown a lot more spine and self-confidence (and versatility) than other campy queens the show has had. Santino’s crack on the runway about comparing her to Pandora Boxx is both accurate (they both need help on the glamor department) and off the mark (Jinkx has a stronger sense of self than Pandora does – “I can speak for myself, Jade!”).

Let’s do a quick blow by blow of the girls…

* COCO – As a Janet Jackson impersonator, she had the look, the physicality, and the voice down cold. She even pulled off a mid-challenge change to go from “Rhythm Nation” era Janet to “If” era Janet. That said, in this challenge, the looks aren’t enough and she wasn’t able to make it funny, which is what kept her out of the top three.

* JADE – Jade looked great as Taylor Swift, but again was dull as dishwater in terms of making her stand out. Middle of the road.

* ROXXXY – I must confess, Roxxxy gets on my nerves as a loud-mouthed, self-absorbed brat (which aren’t necessarily bad traits for a drag queen but she’s just so obnoxious!). That said, everything I personally can not stand about her was put to very good use as Tamar Braxton. It’s easy to see why she’s in the top; she is very talented and she knows what she’s doing. As much as I would clap my hands if she were to get read to filth, I can’t deny her skills.

*JINKX – When she announced she was doing “Little” Edie Beale (fallen Kennedy, fashion icon, and the star of that iconic film and Broadway musical), I jumped for joy. When all of the other queens were asking “Who’s she?”, well, I’ll let this tweet from our editor in chief tell the story…

I think this Instagram of my notes say it better…

(I was so upset I misspelled Edie’s name! Seriously, not knowing Grey Gardens is almost as big of an offense as not knowing Paris Is Burning.)

Anyway, Julie Brown nailed it in calling Jinkx “the Meryl Streep of drag.” Jinkx’s performance won not only for her accuracy and her specificity, but for the fact that she was able to bring the attention back to her. When Ivy failed to complete a joke that Ru had set up about the Kennedys, Jinkx jumped right in and nailed it. She even managed to read the others and not break character! If there is a god, Jinkx will be one of the last queens standing, if not win the whole thing. But I fear that Michelle and Santino are going to keep dinging her for her lack of “glamour.”

(Side Note: Two weeks ago, I mentioned Jinkx’s hilarious web series Monsoon Season, but failed to add the link. Thankfully, FunnyOrDie has the entire series!)

* ALYSSA – Everything I said about Jinkx could be said in reverse about Alyssa. Her Katy Perry look felt half-assed, and frankly there was nothing there in the impersonation, even dropping the opportunity for jokes that Ru was setting up. This is why certain artists (Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, etc.) are poor choices for Snatch Game; any appeal they have is purely visual and there’s no character ticks for an impersonator to latch on to. She is VERY lucky to have had immunity, for I fear she would have been in the bottom. (Though I have to agree with Jinkx’s read of Alyssa; by now everyone knows Snatch Game is coming and if a contestant hadn’t prepared a character for it from day one, they were foolish.) And who didn’t love it when Ru made her apologize on Twitter…

* ALASKA – More and more, I’m liking Alaska more. Her choice to do Lady Bunny was risky, but she nailed the look and the delivery. And while she couldn’t nail the vocal inflections, she was consistently in character. A deserved top three spot.

* IVY – As usual Ivy nailed the look but that’s all she got right with her Marilyn Monroe impersonation. As both Julies mentioned, Marilyn is so overdone that you have to bring something new to the party. Also, she wasn’t able to follow through on Ru’s advice and play her as a smart dumb blonde. That’s been my problem with Ivy so far; in terms of looks, there are few people who do it better, but the personality doesn’t scream “star” to me. She earned her bottom slot but was spared.

* DETOX – As Ke$ha, the usually strong Detox fell apart, and frankly I was surprised. It’s one thing to make fun of someone you know (Detox has worked with Ke$ha before) but as Ru said you can’t be too reverent to not make them funny. You will recall in Season 3 that Raja impersonated Tyra Banks (who she worked with on America’s Next Top Model) and still brought Tyra’s crazy eye to the game and was funny. Detox was just sloppy.

* LINEYSHA – But not nearly as sloppy as Lineysha! I felt bad for her actually; Ru obviously threw her off of her game when she shot down her original idea of doing Michelle Obama. But Ru loves it when a queen stands her ground and can deliver. And while I was intrigued by Lineysha’s idea of doing legendary salsa singer Celia Cruz, the delivery was a train wreck. Which is a shame as her runway look was one of her best.

In the end, Lineysha and Detox had to lip sync to Cher’s disco classic “Take Me Home.” And while Lineysha kept up, once Detox wiggled her jaw, it was all over. So it’s a slightly sad Sashay away for Lineysha, and Detox lives to see another day.

NEXT WEEK: The Queens have to sing (ugh!) but that’s okay because it’s the return of LaToya Jackson!!

Originally published as part of my column “The Idiot Box” for l’etoile magazine on 26 February 2013.

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